Delhi University apologises, starts radiation leak probe


New Delhi : Delhi University Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental Thursday accepted “moral responsibility” for the radioactive accident that killed one man and injured seven in a scrap market here. The radioactive source was traced to the varsity’s chemistry laboratory.

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“The university is very apologetic and takes moral responsibility for the damage which was caused by the incident,” Pental told reporters here.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has sent a team to investigate after it was revealed Wednesday evening that the radioactive source in a scrap shop in Delhi was from a gamma cell auctioned by the university’s department of chemistry, Pental said.

“I don’t want to implicate anybody sitting here. There is a negligence that will come out after the reports. There is no time frame but it has to be done quickly,” he said.

Pental has also written to all the varsity departments warning them to be “extra cautious in future”.

A fortnight ago, the radiation leak was reported from a scrap market in Mayapuri area of west Delhi. Eight people affected by radiation poisoning were admitted to various hospitals. One person died April 27 due to radioactive poisoning.

He added that the department of chemistry had presumed that the radioactive substance was inactive when it was auctioned two months ago.

“The department wanted to clean (out) a lot of unused material lying and from what I have understood it was felt that since the gamma cell was there from 1968-2010, 42 years, it was calculated that it had outlived its radioactive time. It was a mistake. It was not realised that the source might be stronger than what people thought.”

Pental said that he would request varsity members to pitch in and raise money for paying compensation to the victims.

“No amount can compensate for those affected but this is a little bit that we can do. We (can) all pitch in and do something for those affected,” he said.

The university has also set up a committee to investigate the matter. The members are S.C. Pancholi, a nuclear physicist working for the Nuclear Science Centre, N.C. Gumar from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, and B.S. Dwarkanath, a biophysicist from Defence Research and Development Organisation’s nuclear research institute.

Pental said that he wanted everything “thoroughly” probed.

“I want to know what has happened and I am not buying that it died off. We will take action when we get all reports…our university has a strong desire that this be investigated and recorded. Even for the future we must learn from this incident. Such accidents shouldn’t happen even remotely,” the vice chancellor said.

He also said that since the radioactive device had been kept in protective casing on campus students were “hopefully” not exposed.

Asked if the AERB would suspend its clearance to the university for research, Pental said: “The AERB will not be interested in hitting the university in terms of its (research) activities.”